Friday, August 28, 2015

All Things New: Jacob: the 'Face the Music' Road - Part 1

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

With Laban's reluctant blessing, or at least his promise not to do anything that would cause him or his family problems, Jacob was now able to quit looking over his shoulder for pursuit.

But now he had to face the very threat from which he fled twentyish years earlier.


If he were to return to his inheritance, to the land of his fathers,  he was going to have to make peace with Esau.

But he had God's instruction, so he put his camp in motion again and continued moving south.

In Geneses 32 today; my ESV is the translation that's handy....

Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.  And when Jacob saw them, he said, "This is God's camp!  So he called the name of that place Mahanaim.

And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.

(Gen 32: 1- 3, ESV)

Jacob has an angelic escort waiting for him as he approached  home.

Do you suppose they were there to encourage him?  Protect him? Warn him?

Maybe all of the above?

Jacob saw them and, to all appearances, camped there for a while.  The atlas I consulted said the exact location of Mahanaim is unknown, but it was definitely to the east of the Jordan and the north of the Jabbok. 

Before he crossed any rivers, he wanted to get an idea of what kind of welcome he would get.  I don't know how he knew to send his messengers to Seir in order to find his brother; maybe word of Esau's move had come back to the family while he was in Paddan-aram...maybe he just did some asking around in the area after he stopped.  But he parked his flocks, herds, servants and family there until he heard back from his messengers.

And the word they brought him was not exactly what he was hoping to hear.

And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, "We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him." (v. 6)

Apparently Esau had already heard of Jacob's journey home and was headed his way.  Four hundred men...that was a small army.

Jacob had flocks and herds and women and children...there was no way to run from his brother, even if he had had anywhere to go.

Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed (v.7)

'Greatly afraid and distressed' is probably a gross understatement.  Jacob had God's promises, he was acting under God's instruction...and he was terrified.  That's not weak faith, that's just being a real human being.  There was an army coming to possibly annihilate him and his family.   He'd seen the angels earlier..where were they now?  He had run from Esau once; he could not run a second time.

So he began to plan.  The first thing he did was to split his entire entourage into two parts and sent them to camp well away from each other.  If Esau attacked him in the night, Jacob reasoned, he would not expect two camps and might only wipe out one...and at least some of his people and possessions would survive.

Then he stayed at Mahanaim and prayed.  There's no time frame on it, but I kinda think he prayed all night.  Part of what he prayed is included in the narrative...or maybe he just repeated the same prayer over and over, in various iterations.

O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, 'Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good.'  I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I  crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.  Please deliver me from the hand of my brother Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children.  But you said, 'I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.  (vs. 9  - 12)

Jacob reminded God...and, incidentally, himself...that he was here in this threatening place because he had obeyed God.  He told God what he was afraid of,  asked for deliverance from that threat, and reiterated God's promise.

It was a long night, but when the day dawned Esau had not attacked.

So Jacob came up with another strategy.  Now, I don't think the fact that he did this indicates he did not trust God to take care of may have been that God inspired him to deal generously with his brother.  Esau had been angry with Jacob for what he took...Jacob decided to counter that by giving.

And he seriously gave.  I don't know what percentage of his flocks and herds that all worked out to be, but it was a substantial number of animals that he selected:  goats and sheep and camels and cattle and donkeys.  And he split them up into droves, with distance between, so that Esau would encounter massive gift after massive gift as his army drew closer to his brother.

Then, Jacob took his wives and their maids and all his children and all the rest of his goods and sent them across the Jabbok.  Whether by design or by accident, Jacob was the last one left to cross the stream.

Tomorrow would be the day.

How do I encourage myself in the face of an unknown or fearful situation?  Where have I recorded God's promises and instructions and past blessings, so that I can remind myself of them in a critical moment?  How ready am I to believe that when I ask God for wisdom in a particular situation, He will give it to me?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Breaking Free

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Our annual Women's Conference starts next week and we have been having weekly prayer meetings leading up to it.

I missed the first few...transportation issues and then we were out of town...but I was able to go to last night's meeting and was sorry I'd missed the earlier ones.

The conference this year is titled 'She is Brave' and is really about identity.

One lady related a illustration she'd envisioned the week before...of women coming in and old, ragged, disguising clothing falling off into a pile around their feet.

I was reminded of another kind of transformation...the cicada coming out of its shell.

I journaled about it last year as it was the picture I had in my head of what I had to do. That there was another plane for me to move to, but I couldn't get there in the form I was in.. I felt I had to clamber out of the old shell and emerge as something different, something I couldn't even imagine.  It was a challenge I didn't know I could face.

And I'd kinda forgotten that, until last night.

And then I was just a little amazed, because My Sweet Baboo and I had come across a molting cicada on a walk just a few weeks ago.  I happened to have my camera with  me; I posted the photo on Facebook.

Molting takes a lot of energy.'s the deal...those insects can't eat at all during the process.  I remember seeing a nature show dealing with spiders that discussed how much energy it took to molt.    They had a camera on a tarantula as she began the molting process but...she didn't have enough calories in her body and she literally starved to death before she completed it.  She died trapped in the husk of her own body.

It gave me the creeps all around...firstly, spiders just weird me out by themselves, and then the idea of being caught like that made me claustrophobic.

But...there comes a time when the constriction of self...what about me?  what will they think of me? what if they think I'm like THAT?  How do I keep their good opinion?...literally begins to choke, strangle and oppress.

When it's time to shed that skin, it is TIME.  It inhibits growth,  and it's gotta go.  There's no movin' on until it's left behind.

Sure, it's risky.  It's hard.  It takes all available focus and energy.  But if it's delayed too long, it's even harder and more draining.  

It's time to break free and be who God created us to be.

...where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another...  2 Cor. 3:17b - 18a, ESV

Monday, August 24, 2015

In need of sharpening

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

As iron sharpeneth iron, so one man sharpeneth the countenance of another - Prov. 27:17 KJV

We began a weekly lunchtime Bible discussion amongst the office staff and a few others at lunch today.  Everyone (well, most everyone...I was on vacation and missed the submission) turned in verses to discuss; we'll be doing journaling on those verses on our own and then discussing them in the group on a weekly basis.

But, today being the first day, we didn't have verses ready to discuss, so our designated organizer, Miss Betty, put the above verse on the marker board of our conference/lunch room for us to discuss.

We had some really good discussion, and I had a bit of an epiphany about being sharpened that I shared.  Of course,  I knew it was blog material too... ;-)

I found myself pondering  the concept of sharpening and thinking of implements such as spades and shovels and such that my dad used for various tasks on the farm.  And I realized that there are two reasons why those tools would need to be sharpened.

The first reason was that it had been used and used and had become blunted with use.  Then it was in need of re-edging, refinishing, renewing.

The other reason was that it had been unused for so long that the edge had gotten rusty, dull and oxidized.  It had to be re-edged and restored before it would be usable.

I remember my dad cleaning his spade and shovel after use, brushing the edges down and then...he would stick them in a 5 gallon  bucket of used motor oil to prevent rust from forming.  I even remembered the thick  smell of the old oil.

It didn't matter how long the tools were unused if they were left in the oil...they wouldn't rust.  They would remain ready for use.

And this was my long as we're submerged in the oil of the Spirit, we'll stay sharp and ready for use.   Then the only sharpening we'll need is that which comes after hard, brushing and re-edging.

Made me wonder how well I'm staying submerged in the oil myself...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Press Pause

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I know, today is supposed to be 'Bible Studyish' day...and by rights I should be composing the next little look at someone going through a transition.

But, ya know, sometimes ya need a break.

I think that really is beginning to get through my thick skull.

We took a zippy 6 day trip up to Indiana to spend a day or two with our parents, and celebrate our 35th anniversary in the process.

My hubby surprised me by making reservations in the Inn at Turkey Run State Park.  The 'Anniversary Package' included  a night in the inn, dinner and breakfast, and a late checkout.  Oh, and a bottle of champagne (which we switched for sparkling grape juice.  Honest.) and commemorative stemmed glasses with chocolate.

It was quite a treat...and we hiked like crazy Monday morning to squeeze in our favorite bits of the park...the big trees on trail 9 and Rocky Hollow on trail 3. Climbed boulders, ladders, many stairs...yeah, we were feeling it the next day.

We tend to forget how much we enjoy each other's company...when we're so busy that we're basically just saying 'good morning' and 'good night' to each other.

We've taken the kids to Turkey Run a few times...this was the first time we got to go by ourselves.   And the first time we were there for sunset and sunrise.  We actually hiked the half mile down to the suspension bridge before breakfast to take sunrise photos.

Now, of course, I'm playing catch up and I have some pretty major stuff to cover this weekend at work.

Coming back, I told My Sweet Baboo that we need to begin now to schedule our next 'just us' getaway.  

And it needs to happen before Christmas... ;-)

Look for the post on Israel: The 'Face the Music' Road next week...

Friday, August 14, 2015

All Things New: Jacob, the 'Run for Your Life Road', part 2

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Years passed.  Jacob worked off his second seven-year obligation as bride-price for Rachel, then brokered a deal with Laban to work in exchange for flocks and herds.

Two schemers were pitted against each other.  Jacob attempted to use selective breeding to increase his herds, while Laban kept changing the specifics of precisely which animals and their offspring would belong to Jacob.  Jacob's methods don't seem to be terribly scientific; it appears he was operating under the assumption that whatever the animals were looking at as they mated influenced the appearance of the offspring.  Or maybe he thought the smell of the peeled branches would encourage the animals to mate.  Who knows what his plan was.  The plain truth was that God had promised to bless him and God did bless him, regardless of the shenanigans he attempted or the 'renegotiating' that Laban seemed to favor.  Whatever animals were designated as Jacob's...those were the ones that flourished.

Needless to say, this led to some stress in the extended family network.

Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, "Jacob has taken all that was our father's, and from what was our father's he has gained all this wealth."  And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before.   -- Gen 31: 1 -2.

So long as Jacob had served Laban alone, Laban had prospered.  But when Jacob began to accumulate his own flocks, his wealth grew at such a rate that the inlaws began to feel he had stolen from them.

Of course, he had not stolen from Laban any more than he had stolen the birthright from Esau all those years earlier, but the warm fuzzy family feeling was gone and replaced by something rather sinister and threatening.

It was threatening enough that Jacob was beginning to feel apprehensive.  So when he heard a word...and how he heard it is not explained...instructing him to return to his father's land, he didn't question or hesitate.

He did, however, scheme.

He called his wives and concubines and children all out to the  pasture where he was with the flock and rehearsed the whole situation with them...reminding them of how they'd all been cheated.  Rachel and Leah actually agreed on doubt they felt they had each been cheated by their father also.

Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, "Is there any portion or inheritance left to us in our father's house?  Are we not regarded by him as foreigners?  For he has sold us, and he has indeed devoured our money.  All the wealth that God has taken away from our father belongs to us and our children.  Now then, whatever God has said to you, do."  Gen 31:14 - 16.

So Jacob sent them right away...loaded wives, servants, children and all up on camels and sent them off towards Canaan.  He followed with his herdsmen, driving his flocks along as well.

However, it so happened that Rachel had somehow slipped into her father's house and stolen some small idols.  I've heard various explanations of this, but the most interesting is that apparently they were something of a signet...that is, the person who possessed them was reckoned as head of the household; the possessor of the inheritance.

They were nearly Jacob's undoing, however, even though he knew nothing of them.

Three days after they left, Laban got the word they had gone.  I don't know when he realized the idols were missing, or whether the missing idols really had anything to do with why he called all his kinsmen together and took off after Jacob. 

Ten days after Jacob headed south with his flocks and his family, Laban and his posse caught up to them.  The jig was up.

And who knows what Jacob's fate would have been had not Laban had a dream that he was convinced was God speaking to him, warning him not to do anything to Jacob.  Laban's story became
What have you done, that you have tricked me and driven away my daughters like captives of the sword?  Why did you flee secretly and trick me, and did not tell me, so that I might have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine and lyre?  And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell?  Now you have done foolishly.  It is in my power to do you harm.  But the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, 'Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.'  And now you have gone away because you longed for your father's house, but why did you steal my gods?

In my mind I hear a really deep breath following all of that...

Jacob, however, was not impressed by the story; I don't think he bought it. But the last bit made him angry.

Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force.

That pretty much shows what he thought of the likelihood of being 'sent away with mirth and songs'.

And being called a thief was insult to injury.  He thew open his whole entourage to be searched in full view of everyone.

Anyone with whom you find your gods shall not live.  In the presence of our kinsmen point out what I have that is yours and take it.

So, with Jacob's permission, Laban began to dig through the tents.  He looked through Jacob's tent...nothing.  Bilhah's tent and Zilphah's tent...nothing.  Leah's tent...nothing.  They came to Rachel's tent, where she was sitting demurely on her camel's saddle.  I'm paraphrasing here, basically she said, 'Oh, please don't be offended that I can't get up to greet's 'that time' of the month' and I can't stand up.'

There was no 'feminine products' aisle at the local Wal-mart in those days.  They folded thick pads and sat on them.  And they spent the time in the women's tent, away from the men.  But, traveling, there was no 'women's tent', so Rachel would have to manage as best she could.  It was a huge taboo for men to have any contact with a woman on her period.  So they would not have searched anything that could possibly have been contaminated by her flow.  So consequently they did not check the saddle of her camel...where she had hidden the idols.

When the search of the camp turned up nothing, Jacob was justified in his indignation. 

What is my offense?  What is my sin, that you have hotly pursued me?  For you have felt through all my goods; what have you found of all your household goods?  Set it here before my kinsmen and your kinsmen, that they may decide between us two.

These twenty years I have been with you.  Your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, and I have not eaten the rams of your flocks.  What was torn by wild beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it myself.  From my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night.

There I was: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes. 

These twenty years I have been in your house.  I served you fourteen years for your daughters and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times.  If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed.  God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands and rebuked you last night.

Laban had been called out and had nothing to show for his defense.  I kinda think his bravado withered away and he sullenly replied

The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks all all that you see is mine.  

But he also realized that he could not do anything to keep Jacob from taking what he had rightfully earned.  So he offered a compromise: they gathered a heap of stones and called on God to witness their  covenant not harm each other, and Jacob promised not to oppress Laban's daughters or marry other wives.  They called the pile 'Mizpah'.

Jacob made a sacrifice; they all ate together and in the morning Laban rose and actually kissed his daughters and grandchildren and blessed them, as he had lamented that he had not been able to do originally.

Jacob had to heave a huge sigh of relief to see Laban's back.  He wasn't out of the woods yet, though...he still had to face Esau.

What am I afraid of that God has already gone before me to protect me?  Why do I not believe He will protect what He has given into my responsibility? How can I deliberately make the choice to release those fears to Him?

Friday, August 7, 2015

All Things New: Leah, the Overshadowed Road

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.  Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful.  -- Gen. 29:16-17 NIV84

Beauty seemed to run in the family...Sarah, her niece Rebekah, her niece Rachel...but Leah missed the beauty gene.  Or maybe she barely missed it; the term translated 'weak eyes' in the NIV can have several connotations.  Strong's 739, rak, is defined as tender (lit. or fig.); by impl. weak: - faint [-hearted], soft, tender ([-hearted] one), weak.  Leah had something unattractive about her eyes; she may have been nearsighted, so that she squinted continually; or it could even have been a reference to the color of her eyes...her eyes  may have been startlingly pale ('faint'), compared to the deep brown common in that ethnic group.  We know from what happened on Jacob's first wedding night that she could not have been much different than her sister in her basic physical form.

But, whatever the actual issue was, she was flawed.  Her younger sister was most definitely not.  When their cousin arrived looking for a bride...Leah was overlooked.  Not even considered. Jacob had only been with them one month, enough to demonstrate that he had the ability to manage and organize and bring increase, when Laban decided Jacob should stick around and work for him...and asked him what he would feel would be fair wages.

Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, 'I'll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.'  (Gen 29:18)

Now that was a deal.  No dowry needed...and Laban had seven years of willing work.  Leah had seven years to watch Jacob, who loved her sister and probably barely noticed her.

Did Leah fall in love with Jacob?  Was her heart pained every time he brushed her aside?  It's possible.

We do not know whose idea it was to swap brides on the wedding night.  But Leah had to be a willing conspirator.  Most assuredly, Jacob had been drinking, but  I have a hard time believing he would allow himself to get stupid drunk, with Rachel waiting for him.  But it was dark in the tent...and the ladies were somewhat similar in build...and Leah said very little.  It wasn't until it was full daylight that Jacob saw what had happened.  Now, had Leah not been willing to go along with the plan, she could easily have given Jacob a reason to recognize that it was not Rachel in his arms.  But she held her peace and maintained the illusion.

And thus, by subterfuge, she won herself a husband...who had nothing but disdain and contempt for her.  Oh, she may have put the blame on Laban, who willingly accepted it, but the plain truth was she had deceived Jacob and he was now bound to a woman for whom he felt no affection and had no use.  And he had to spend a week with her in the bridal chamber before he could claim the woman he loved.

Those seven days may have seemed longer than the previous seven years to all of them.  At the end of it, Jacob married Rachel and did not return to Leah's tent.

But Leah was pregnant.  She blossomed with life, while Rachel, who had her husband's, um, full attention, remained thin and barren.  Leah had Jacob's approval when she presented him with his firstborn son, Reuben.  When it was appropriate...he went to her tent to show his appreciation.  And she became pregnant again.

Perhaps Jacob had a use for her, after all.  Four sons she gave him in succession, while Rachel seethed with jealousy, blaming Jacob for her barrenness.  But Leah was going through a transition.  She was learning to find her significance  and her worth not in her relationships but in her God.  She named her fourth son Judah, saying, 'This time I will praise the LORD.'

My idea...I'll fix this...this will work...all our human ideas and schemes lead to problems.  Leah's acceptance of a plan to make Jacob marry her gave her a lifetime of heartache and rejection.  But in the midst of it she recognized, for at least a season, that God was the one who held her, it was God who gave her sons, it was God who would take her mess and make it into something that would ultimately bring Him glory.  She had no way of knowing that her praise would begin the lineage of The King.

What am I trying to manipulate into something that achieves my desires?  How can I release that to God?  What actions of His can I praise Him for today?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

SSMT 2015 Verse 15 - Joel 3:14

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

And the calendar maintains its steady pace; time for the next Siesta Scripture Memory Team Text.

For several weeks now, this verse has been hammering around the corners of my consciousness...

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.  -- Joel 3:14 NIV 84

Is it just me...or does anyone else have a sense of stakes rising, time passing, choices looming?  I hear so much rhetoric that hurts my heart, because so many seem to have made decisions based on popular thought instead of truth...and so much spin is put on what is going on that no one can really say what truth is.  Which is this day and age of nearly instant information, there is so much flying around that it's almost impossible to tell what is true, what is exaggerated, what is covered up and downplayed and what is an outright fabrication.

Kind of like the old adage...a man who has one clock always knows what time it is.  A man with two clocks is never sure.  

Time to dig into what is True...and hold on for dear life.  Because dear life may just be at stake.